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Why life changes, both good and bad, can lead to divorce

All married couples go through life-altering events together. Sometimes, they bring them closer, while other times they can tear a marriage apart.

The birth of a child is usually a joyful event. However, one study found that about two-thirds of couples reported decreased happiness in their marriage in the first three years of their baby's life. Both spouses are taking on new roles, and their differing views of child-rearing can cause tension in the marriage.

At the other end of the spectrum is children leaving home. Being alone together for the first time in decades is a big change. Some "empty-nesters" find they have little in common. Some haven't faced their problems. Others have stayed married for the children. All of these things could be why divorce rates among people in their 50s and older have increased.

Career changes, for better or worse, can place stress on a marriage. Unemployment can be a significant source of tension. Worries about money and changes in family responsibilities can negatively impact a relationship.

On the other hand, when one spouse takes on a new job with more responsibilities and more time away from home, he or she may focus less on the marriage. The rate of divorce among military families has been found to correlate with the length of time the service member is away from the family.

Not surprisingly, traumatic events like the death of a child can drive couples apart. Sometimes, one or both spouses just want to let go of anything that reminds them of the tragedy -- including their spouse. For some people, though, trauma can bring them closer.

Illness can also impact a marriage. It often changes the responsibilities within the relationship. Interestingly, it's been found that couples are more likely to divorce when the wife has a chronic or serious medical condition than when the husband is ill. However, as with traumatic events, it all depends on how the individual couple reacts to the situation.

One psychologist and marriage counselor says that if couples can be honest with each other about their feelings when these life changes occur and not be afraid to seek outside help, their marriage may have a better chance of surviving. The earlier they work on their problems, the less likely they'll be to tear them apart when something significant occurs in their lives.

Source: Health.com, "7 Life Events That Can Lead to Divorce," Amanda MacMillan, March. 20, 2015

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